“I didn’t mean it,” Conor said.
You did, the monster said, but you also did not.
Humans are complicated beasts, the monster said. How can a queen be both a good witch and a bad witch? How can a prince be a murderer and a saviour? How can a person be wrong-thinking but good thinking? … The answer is that it does not matter what you think, the monster said, because your mind will contradict itself a hundred times each day … Your mind will believe comforting lies while also knowing the painful truths that make those lies necessary. And your mind will punish you for both.
From ‘A Monster Calls’, by Patrick Ness, a short, haunting, beautiful tale about human complexity and longing that’s far bigger in scope and reach than its ‘children’s fiction’ label might suggest.
It’s a story about love, and our longing and fear of being seen for who we are. And it’s about the innumerable ways we’ll twist ourselves out of shape in order to avoid saying what’s most true, because we’re scared of being judged, and ashamed at our own contradictions. And what might be possible when we nevertheless summon the necessary kindness and courage to speak.
And a hymn, to those moments in life when a fearsome choice is to be made between turning away from truth, or turning towards it – which are also moments where we choose between turning away from or towards ourselves, and the people around us.
It reminded me how often we prefer the illusory security of holding back, even at great consequence to our lives, rather than the vulnerability of speaking up.
And just how much of our lives, and how many of our institutions, can be elaborate constructions for distancing ourselves, right when we most need – and most fear – turning towards one another.